Monday, June 24, 2013

Perception: To See or To SEE?

I was reading the paper the other day and read about the shooting of a families beloved German Shepherd by local police.

Called to the house for something completely different the two officers felt that the second dog, a female German Shepherd, threatened them and they shot her, wounding her. Because the damage was so severe and care so delayed she had to be put down.

However, what made the story so interesting was what the officers said happened was in contrast to what the family said happened. The real difference though was what the security camera saw and it was quite different than either story. What do we really see?

We can all recite tales of 10 people seeing an accident and just about everyone telling a slightly different story. It has been proven that an "eye witness" account may not be all that accurate after all. We see what we want to see, what we are trained to see, what our experience allows us to see. Another words, we ALL see differently.

A case in point was a painting I started plein air in a park. It was a lovely scene of a pond, small waterfall and koi swimming in the water. The lovely day quickly began to cloud over and before we knew it, it started to rain. No one moved but as the minutes ticked by it came down harder and harder. Before I knew it, my oil painting was literally gone. I was stunned. I had done an undercover outline in acrylic but never dreamed the rain would wash the oils away.

In the hour or two that I had worked on it, it was turning out to be an amazing painting. I was so happy with it and then, before my very eyes, it was gone.

Luckily I had taken a photo of the scene so after changing my clothes at home and drying out my wooden easel I decided to start in again to capture that wonderful scene. I printed out a color photo to use as reference and started in.

It was not to be. Without being there I couldn't capture the mood. Looking at the photo, while lovely, I realized it was not what I saw. It was two dimensional and I had seen three.  Everything, every detail was there yet I realized my mind had removed some details and enhanced others. Do we do that in real life? See some things and ignore others? Obviously we do. It happens all the time. I had proven it to myself.

An artist often sees the world through difference lenses. While some may take a scene literally, or architecturally or socially, an artist often will capture the spirit of the scene, how it makes them feel. No one way is better, just different. Yet, we need to have all the perceptions, we need to understand that what we see, what we THINK we see is filtered by our personal experiences. The challenge is to try to understand how others see as well.

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